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Revisiting Miami Resolutions

As we look forward to 2016, we revisited some of last year’s Miami resolutions and asked leaders around the city, from real estate to the arts to tech, to comment on the progress they think we’ve made and what they’re hoping Miami accomplishes in the next year. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to leaders around Miami to learn about their aspirations for our city in 2016. Which community leaders would you like to hear from? Let us know in the comments below. 

Avra Jain at The Vagabond
Avra Jain at The Vagabond (Courtesy of Jayme Gershen)

Last year, Avra Jain, the mastermind behind the renovation of the Vagabond Hotel and development of the burgeoning MiMo district, wanted to focus on curating Little River “in a way that’s affordable.” In early 2015, she predicted that “Biscayne Boulevard is going to feel more and more like a village by the end of the year. I’m looking forward to all the neon signs coming back, and I will do my part in that.” Looking back, Jain “thinks we achieved a lot and stayed true to the overall path.” She’s happy to have opened up the 6318-6322 block of Biscayne Blvd., and was “really pleased on how the mix of the original MiMo bookend buildings framed a new modern Starbucks installation.”

Among other goals for next year, she hopes to continue neighborhood-building. “We always wish we could do things more quickly but the process of construction doesn’t always allow for that. We have many exciting things still in the permit process with the city that will support the vision for a creative district. Hopefully by this time next year we will have a restaurant/cafe/cocktail lounge in Little River.” And, of course, in 2016 she hopes for “More Neon!”

Courtesy of Ralph Ventura
Courtesy of Ralph Ventura

We also caught up with Marte Siebenhar of the Bakehouse Arts Complex and Chris Oh, a curator and artist with a long history in art and placemaking. Last year, Sienbenhar said she would “love to see people not just going to events but actually engaging in the practice of art, or with people who make art” and in the past year she thinks “Miami has gotten closer to that — to actually making art.” Ongoing contributions to Miami making art include “makerspaces, arts and tech breakfasts, and a lot of new activity and collaborations happening.” For the next year, the question is not “How do we make art an everyday thing? But, rather, how do we help people find the things they’re going to engage with? How do we make that information readily accessible?”

Courtesy of Chris Oh

Chris Oh, on the contrary, thinks Miami is moving too slowly. When looking back at last year, he doesn’t think we’ve made as much progress as we could. A sentiment he echoed this year and last is that in order to become and to support a credible arts community, Miami’s universities desperately need a credible Masters in Fine Arts degree program. “I want a lot of the same things I wanted last year — only minor steps have been taken. I know it takes time and Rome wasn’t built in a day, but in order for Miami to move forward, it needs local support.” Without the right investments, he warns that “Miami always on the verge of being an emerging arts scene.”

We talked to two leaders in the Miami tech scene, Ernie Hsiung and Johanna Mikkola. Hsiung spent most of last year in San Francisco as a Code for America fellow working to improve government technology in Miami-Dade County.  Last year, Hsiung hoped to make government more accessible and transparent to Miami’s entrepreneurs. After  working on open data initiatives, he realized that unlike tech, the pace of government is slow, “so there has to be small, incremental improvements … and any type of improvement will be a win.” While he wishes he could have done more in the past year, he thinks that launching an open data portal was a big win, “because we worked with the county so that they were able to make data available electronically for immediate download,” for use in a meaningful way. 

Courtesy of Ernie Hsiung
Courtesy of Ernie Hsiung

He still thinks a lot of government processes in Miami “are based on personal relationships,” and with more open data, organizations, journalists, and developers can disrupt that by “building interesting things” that encourage transparency and build accountability. He thinks this is a stepping stone for the type of small incremental improvements that will ultimately make Miami more transparent.

This biggest thing Hsiung wanted to see for Miami last year was “additional developer resources.” He thinks that there have been some gains, as “there’s now a code school in Fort Lauderdale and that’s awesome. Ironhack is also churning out a good amount of programmers too. And CS50 and the Idea Center at the Miami-Dade College is a big step forward.” Now he thinks the next step is “figuring out how to level up those programmers.”

He thinks Miami needs more tech conferences, more meet-ups, and more integration between tech communities. Last year he wanted to see Miami become a tech leader in supporting minority and female developers. “We absolutely still can become a leader in filling those gaps.” The key? “More community building.”

Johanna Mikkola
Johanna Mikkola

Johanna Mikkola, cofounder and managing director of Wyncode, a coding school based at LAB Miami, wrote to us from her hometown of Finland where she was on vacation. Earlier this year, she said her biggest goal was to “get Miami coding.” This year, after opening two new locations one in Fort Lauderdale and one in the works on Miami Beach, she is “finding that there is a strong demand both from individuals and companies needing the talent.” She also hoped for more coding education and after launching a scholarship for helping underrepresented groups in tech get the training they need, she thinks Wyncode is on the right track for achieving that goal. Finally, earlier this year, she wanted bigger companies to represent Miami tech — and with “CareCloud, Kipu Systems, Ultimate Software, Watsco Ventures, MDLIVE, Cloud Logistics” as hiring partners, she thinks the ecosystem for Miami tech is growing stronger and stronger. Overall, she’s “glad to say [this year] was overwhelmingly positive.”